Chance That Surgery Could Find Benign Tumor

OncoLink
Last Modified: August 14, 2012

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Question

I am having surgery for a thyroid cancer found with a biopsy but I read online that they could do the surgery and find out it is benign. Is that really true?

Answer

Rachel Kelz, MD, MSCE, at Penn Medicine responds:

The accuracy of the pre-operative diagnosis is dependent upon the cytologist that reviews the slides. It varies across institutions. Assuming the pre-operative diagnosis is made by an experienced cytopathologist, the likelihood of benign results following an FNA that is a proven cancer is small (<3%.) There are several FNA diagnoses that are not overt CANCER that require surgery for a definitive diagnosis such as follicular neoplasm and suspicious for thyroid cancer. These diagnoses are expected to be benign on pathologic review in a specific percent of patients.

This question and answer was part of OncoLink's Brown Bag Web Chat Series. View the entire transcript of Focus on Thyroid Cancer.